Dr. Richard Boas, 59, founder of the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network (KUMSN), gave up his medical practice in 2001 to pursue philanthropy full time. After practicing ophthalmology for 25 years, he decided to continue his mission to improve conditions where he felt compelled to do so.
Twenty years ago, the American ophthalmologist and his wife adopted a baby girl from Korea. That daughter is now a thriving college student. In 2005, Dr. Boas, then a strong supporter of international adoption, was devoting his energies to helping American families adopt Korean children with special needs and whose siblings had already been adopted.
But his perspective changed in October 2006 when Dr. Boas visited Korea, met with unmarried, pregnant women- who intended to give up their babies- and visited with orphans who had been relinquished by their mothers. He discovered that most of these women did not want to give up their children for adoption. They were doing it because they felt that they had to, due to economic and societal pressures. What Dr. Boas realized was that his adopted daughter's mother was likely one of those women. The realization spun his thinking around and sparked the formation of the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network.
Seventy percent of unmarried Korean pregnant women give up their children; in comparison the US figure is two percent. Since the end of the Korean War there has been a steady flow of Korean adoptees to the West. The Korean international adoption program peaked in the mid-1980s when over 8,000 children a year were adopted abroad, mostly in the United States. And Dr. Boas and his wife were a part of that wave. That number has since dropped. Since 1991 about 2,000 Korean children each year have been sent abroad for adoption, primarily to the United States.
Today, Dr. Boas is on a mission to not only help Korean women and their children by providing direct funding for organizations set up to support them, but to affect a sea change in attitudes and support toward unwed mothers and their children in Korean society itself. He frequently travels to Korea to focus on having respectful discussions about these issues with the political, academic and not-for-profit community. Dr. Boas continues his campaign in the United States where he frequently networks within the adoption community.
In addition to his leadership of KUMSN, Dr. Boas continues to be involved with numerous charitable organizations near his home in Connecticut, many of which he helped found. These include establishing funds for oncology patients in need at Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, Conn. and establishing the Fay Fund at Connecticut Hospice in Branford, Conn. In addition, Dr. Boas served on the board of the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation, Westport, Conn.
Dr. Boas earned his B.A. and M.D. degrees from Cornell University; interned at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. and held residencies at North Shore University Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. and at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, N.Y. In 1982, while holding a fellowship in clinical glaucoma at Mount Sinai Medical Center, he conducted and published groundbreaking research regarding the use of lasers in treating glaucoma.
Dr. Boas lives in Connecticut with his wife. In addition to one adopted daughter, he has two biological children.